Quick Tomato Sauce (If You Plan Ahead…)

tomato sauce with pasta

Yes, another tomato post. Think of it as my way of reminding you of the time of year.

When we first kicked processed food, we struggled to replace canned tomatoes—whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. I used to cook vats of chili and also vats of bolognese sauce to serve with pasta one night and put into lasagne the next—all tomato-based recipes my kids never turned down. How would I survive without canned tomatoes, the essential ingredient for my ace-up-the-sleeve meals?

Our diet has changed quite a bit since going plastic free and then zero waste (pretty much the same thing because all the trash is plastic junk). We eat more fresh produce and, not coincidentally, more delicious food. We still eat tomatoes, but fresh ones only that come from the farmers market. If we want sauce, we make sauce.

So, tomato sauce from scratch was one of my first projects. You’ll find the recipe for that here. It’s delicious but takes a while to make. The fermented tomato sauce in this post takes little time—once you have fermented the tomatoes that is…

tomato sauce with pasta
Tomato-basil sauce with homemade pasta

Fermented tomatoes

Similar to sourdough bread, fermented tomatoes require little effort. You merely babysit the tomatoes as they progress. And you don’t even have to be a good babysitter—pushing the kids on the swing in the backyard, reading them book after book and making sure they don’t watch porn on dad’s computer. You’re more of a surly teenage babysitter who invites her boyfriend over, makes out on the couch all night and checks in once in a while to make sure the kids haven’t set the house on fire.

Fermented tomatoes basically make themselves, they keep for months in the refrigerator and they taste tangy and delicious. You chop tomatoes, crush them with your hands, salt them, cover them with a thin cloth, stir a few times a day and wait five days or so until they’re ready. No blanching. No peeling. No food mill. Use them as soon as they’re ready or use them much later. Prepping tomatoes through fermentation gives you a break in the tomato sauce cooking. Here is the full recipe.

fermented tomatoes
Fermenting tomatoes covered with a thin, secured linen cloth

Fermented tomato sauce

A handful of ingredients
simmering tomato sauce
Simmering tomato sauce
tomato sauce with basil
Finish off with basil
tomato sauce with pasta
Sauce with homemade noodles I rolled and cut by hand

Now that you have your tomatoes ready, you can quickly make tomato sauce. This recipe serves two to three people.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, or to taste, minced
  • 2 cups fermented tomatoes
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, cut into fine shreds (a chiffonade)


1. Heat up olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, and if using, shredded carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until onions are softened and translucent.

2. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

3. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, turn down to simmer. Continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in basil. Serve with hot pasta.


1. Because you cook the fermented tomatoes, they lack the probiotic goodness of fermented foods. The heat kills the microbes.

2. Do not add extra salt to this! The fermented tomatoes contain salt and, as you cook them down, the salt concentrates.

3. The shredded carrot not only helps you sneak more vegetables into your family’s diet while using up produce you may have rattling around in the crisper, it also dilutes the salt in the tomatoes. Taste your tomatoes. If they are very salty, consider adding some carrots. Or add carrots and celery to the onion for a mirepoix.

homemade tomato sauce
Simmering fermented tomato sauce with shredded carrots
homemade pasta in pasta maker
Pasta maker in action

Stay tuned

I made the noodles in the pics with sauce by hand, not with my daughter’s pasta machine. It was dirty and I couldn’t be bothered hauling it out of its box. I then used it to make the pasta for the batch of tomato sauce with carrots. OMG. I’m obsessed with this tool. It makes the best noodles. I see pasta machines often at our local thrift shop. People buy them, never use them and then discard them. I’ll post a homemade pasta recipe soon.

Are homemade noodles worth the effort? Should you buy a pasta machine? Will you be able to stomach store-bought pasta ever again if you start down the homemade road? These questions—and many others—will be answered in an upcoming post of…The Zero-Waste Chef.

2 Replies to “Quick Tomato Sauce (If You Plan Ahead…)”

  1. Would absolutely love to try this! Had no idea you could make something like this 😊

  2. Would this work on home-canned, pureed tomatoes? I made your fermented salsa and it literally makes my mouth water when I think about it. I can only imagine what fermented tomatoes do to tomato sauce! I also have some frozen whole plum tomatoes. It seems like it would still ferment, but I want your professional opinion. 🙂

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